I’ve been thinking a lot about the two servicemen and a friend who took down a would-be mass murderer on a French train and wondering what I would do if faced with the same situation. That one’s easy. I’d probably hide, take out my smartphone, grab a few shots and post them to Facebook with the status update, “Bad guy on train. Guess this means club car is off limits.”
It’s true and you know it. How often are we admonished, “Be safe. Don’t be a hero!” Yet, there are passengers on that train who are alive today, perhaps grabbing an espresso and panini at an outdoor cafe’, enjoying time with their families, chugging some cheap muscatel or reading the Sunday New York Times because of three gentlemen who were, indeed, heroes. By the sounds of it, they never gave being a hero a thought. Most heroes never do and when you hang that tag on them, they generally brush it off saying “I didn’t even think about it. I just jumped in.” In the case of Airman First Class Spencer Stone the motivation, he told the New York Times was “to survive.”
But that’s what makes him a hero, even if he resists the label. To survive, most of us would take cover, take a powder, take a hike or simply run. He and his two comrades went the other way, into the storm and not towards shelter.
One could argue they felt confident in their military training, physical prowess or toughness of character, where a guy like me who sits in an office all day answering emails and attending meetings might not have the skills, strength or instincts to take on a guy armed to the teeth intent on killing as many people as his supply of ammunition and ability to avoid capture or death would allow him.
But then I have that “slap me in the face” moment when I come to the realization that you don’t have to thwart mass murder or jump into fast-moving waters or a blazing building to save lives to be a hero.
Throughout my life I have faced cowards all the time who cower in the face of change, of taking chances, of attempting new methods, of facing disagreement, of understanding when they’re wrong, of clinging to perceived power or turf.
Those of you who are brave enough to counter prevailing thought, take on new challenges, try untested methods, go against the grain, face those who oppose change, admit when they are wrong, hire people who are smarter than they are and listen to what they have to say, are unselfish and show constant empathy–you are heroes too.
Indeed, it takes strength, inner resolve, confidence and a pure character to stand up to adversity, whether it’s physical, philosophical, parochial or occupational. Do that, and you’re a hero to someone.
But those three guys on the train? Holy crap. That took balls…and regardless of gender, to be a hero, you need those too.